COVID-19 pandemic has put into jeopardy the exports of Russian fish to China. However, many experts believe that the onset of the novel coronavirus infection was only an official reason for limiting trade with Russia.
It all started with the fact that traces of the novel coronavirus infection were detected at the original packaging of squids supplied from Russia to China. A search for them began after two stevedores had fell ill in the port of Changchun. During the inspection, it turned out that the day before, they unloaded the Russian products. Samples that were taken from the container indicated the presence of traces the virus, not the coronavirus itself.
The goods that caused the incident were manufactured by the Release company, a part of Norebo, a large fishery industrial holding. According to Sergey Sennikov, a deputy manager of this firm, it was impossible to transmit the virus this way. The crew of the vessel took the tests before going to sea. The voyage lasted more than a month. During this time, none of the sailors got ill. Nevertheless, the Trans Wind imports from Russia.
How much fish is shipped to China? China is the largest importer of Russian seafood. Since 2012, this market has grown by almost 10 times. In 2019, more than 60% of all fish going abroad was sold to China. In monetary terms, this amounts to about $3.3 bln. In the first half of 2020, the amount of exports has already reached $1.8 bln. That is, it could potentially exceed last year's figures. However, the global financial crisis has interfered with these plans.
As alleged by some fish companies, the accusations of the COVID-19 spread were “the beginning of an undeclared trade war.” According to them, prices for pollack have already fallen 20%, although at this time of year they traditionally grow. The same is true of other products.
Alexander Fomin, the CEO of the Association of Fish Market Production and Trade Enterprises, views it as an instrument of unfair competition. Due to the pandemic, the demand for seafood has decreased among final consumers as restaurants, hotels and travel industry suspended operations for a long time. Even now everything works with grave restrictions. Possibly, in doing so, China wants to reduce losses and to bring down the purchase price.
Previously, cases of import restrictions have been registered, too. This is not the first motion of this kind regarding fish importers. In June, a similar situation occurred with Norwegian salmon, which was banned from deliveries to China after COVID-19 had been found on the chopping board where the fish was dressed at a Beijing market. However, despite all the promises of experts from Oslo that the fish meat could not be a carrier of infection, the import of farmed Norwegian salmon to China was stopped.
The Russian trading companies have already drawn officials' attention to the fact that the situation with domestic supplies might develop in a similar way. In August, the Federal Agency for Fisheries (Rosrybolovstvo) held a meeting with its colleagues from China to discuss additional antiviral measures to protect both the Russian manufacturers and Chinese consumers. Unfortunately, this did not help avoid the sad consequences. At present, the Federal Service for Veterinary and Phytosanitary Surveillance (Rosselkhoznadzor) has also joined the negotiations with the Chinese customs officials. For the time being, these negotiations are still in progress.